July 2, 2010

Temple of Musk by Strange Invisible Perfumes

"When formulating this perfume I was inspired by the essential notion of a heavenly creature." ~Alexandra Balahoutis, Perfumer

This fragrance baffled me.  It stretched me.  It challenged me.  For the longest time, I didn't understand why.  I loved it and hated it at the same time.  It made me feel things and think about things.  It reminded me of all the things I am truly passionate about.  

I finally realized the reason:  This perfume is Art. It is art in the sense that it is not an imitation of anything that has gone before.  It is a unique and fresh perspective.

After much contemplation and several scent strip and skin tests,  I came to the realization that this scent is not predictable. But really, it is not the predictable things in life that move us.  Predictable things are what we expect.  They are the "norm."

Every once in a while you come across something that challenges the status quo and makes you reconsider what you had come to expect as "the right way to be." I have to say, this fragrance was such an experience. 

It has been said before that art is a reflection of life. I have come to the realization that the most profound art are the pieces that cause the most disruption to our sense of balance. They are the pieces that cause you to rethink and to reconsider. This perfume is one of these pieces. It causes us to rethink what we know.  It moves us in unexpected ways.

In the artists own words, an interview with Alexandra Balahoutis on September 5th, 2005 on "Now Smell This"  blog:

"The (perfume) house was named for a line from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the sense of the adjacent wharfs."

"I wanted to make irrationally precious perfumes. When I was first collecting essences, the only ones I fell in love with were natural. When I smelled them I felt the immeasurable possibilities of interpreting them into compositions. They were rough, hypnotic, concentrated, and alive. I was so excited by the challenge of smoothing them into one another and taming them politely and respectfully. I just didn’t feel that potential in working with synthetics, nor did I feel the eagerness and electricity that a flavorist feels when they are completely inspired by the preciousness and rarity of their palette. Artisan wine makers and chefs, for example, are rarely beside themselves with anticipation to incorporate artificial flavors."

Temple of Musk

Perfumers Notes: 
"Selected hydro-distilled temple mandarin and organic black currant to brighten an otherwise unapologetic musk composition. Organic vanilla softens and reinforces the theme of something primal yet completely enticing, an idea so quintessential to the art of perfumery.  Last but not least, the myrtle in this fragrance is estate grown and hydro-distilled in Ojai, California at my family grove.  It is unlike any other myrtle I have ever encountered, possessing a strawberry-resin-like quality that makes me swoon. I hope that you enjoy Temple of Musk."

Four hours ago, I placed a small amount of Temple of Musk on the inside of my left wrist.  It started off bright and resinous... like no other fragrance I ever encountered.  It was so totally different than anything I ever smelled that I just didn't know what to make of it. Immediately, I thought of citrus peels... you know, as you dig your fingers into the surface and pith... the fine mist of volatile oils that spray into the air with a sharpness that makes your nose tingle.  Totally unexpected, yet totally intriguing.    It was like the feeling you get when seeing lovers kissing in public.  You are all at once uncomfortable, yet intrigued.  You want to watch, but you know your not supposed to. :o)

The initial fresh and sparkle of resin and fruit slowly evolves to a deep, rich seductive muskiness.  It is such a rich and unusual muskiness... nothing like you've ever smelled or come to expect... such a pheromonal muskiness.  Which, after all, is the point of musk:  It is a sex pheromone.

It is easy to like the predictable, but its the new and different that wakes us up and causes us to reconsider what we know to be.

beyond expectations
I listen from the inside
moving to my beat
outside the boundaries
there, I find a place
where uncertainty and joy
make art with their existence
the contrast offers
delicious acceptance
as all the shades
take their rightful place
clarity replaces
the voices of others
Peace is born.

~Chris Morrison


  1. Chris, your wonderful review reminded me of the words by Nicholas Berdyaev

    " Erotic energy is the eternal source of creativity. The erotic shock is the way
    of revealing beauty in the world."

    The erotic shock is after all the essence of what the scent of musk conjures in
    our emotional bodies. Throughout the history of mankind mystics have expressed
    the transforming interaction with the Divine through the arts. Art is a process
    of discovery; of revealing what was hidden, yet, was there all along. All of
    the discoveries, inventions and creations, the world values, came from
    passionate hearts. Someone felt a hunger; a love for something and from that
    interaction, birth was given to something not seen before. The hunger to create
    is akin to the erotic desire.

    Each one of us, and indeed everything within existence, sings a silent song of
    yearning to be discovered. It is through our silent songs that we draw towards
    us the other; the beloved. To be loved is to be made visible. Within in each of
    us there is a deep longing to be made visible. That is, we long for something or
    someone to recognize that which is invisible behind our exterior form and to
    make it visible through the intimate touch. To be touched means to let down your
    guard and be stirred through the interaction with something that you perceived
    to be outside of your self. Yet, through the touch that which was perceived to
    be separate from you becomes part of you, for to be touched is to experience. To
    experience is to know something.

    The Art of Natural Perfumes, in my opinion, expresses the transforming power of
    touch better than any other art form, and it is so beautifully expressed by this
    review of Temple Musk.

    With your touch I quivered
    like a string of a harp
    be it sound
    be it colour
    be it form
    be it fragrances
    your touch released
    a quivering emanation
    from my heart
    and in that quivering
    I was transformed


  2. Thanks for posting this here, Sophia. Your comments moved me as much as the perfume did.


  3. Chris I really enjoyed reading your interpretation of this fragrance. Congrats to Alexandra for Temple of Musk. Thank you Sophia for such moving words...